Being Black in the UK music industry

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Last Wednesday (October 13th) Black Lives in Music reported the findings and analysis of their ‘Being Black in the UK Music Industry’ survey, which took place across 6 weeks in March and April of this year.  The key premise of the survey was to capture the experiences of music industry professionals and creators, and it is the largest survey of its kind to date.  The findings and analysis are set out in two reports focusing on Music Industry Professionals and Music Creators, with methodology and analytical tools clearly stated.

The report found irrefutable evidence backing long-held beliefs on systemic racism being an issue in the industry as well as revealing experiences of Black musicians that illustrate a culture of systemic and institutionalised racism. Whilst the focus is mostly on the live and studio ecosystems, including PR and management, it is important to be aware of the findings in forging the future of MI retail and manufacture, including the effects of systemic racism on the customers who support our businesses.

The survey highlights Black women falling victim to racial inequalities in their careers more than men in all areas, earning an average of £256 less than white women music creators being an example. The report has also revealed a direct link between discrimination and mental wellbeing with 42% of Black women reporting that their mental health had worsened since starting a career in music and 16% seeking counselling due to racial abuse. 

This report provides an anonymous list of quotes contributed from survey takers showing disturbing truths about their experience within the music industry: 

-“Black women can’t make rock music, sexual comments about the size of my lips, etc., racial comments about my ‘crazy, unruly’ afro, etc. I don’t give these comments my energy anymore but feel it’s important that people are aware.”

“Jokes about skin colour, Africa, persistent questioning about where I really come from.”

“Although my main income is currently a teacher, I’m an instrumentalist/session musician/composer/producer and, like so many, have to diversify to survive.”

.Charisse Beaumont, Chief Executive, Black Lives in Music had this to say about the report: 

“You cannot change what you cannot measure. Nearly 2000 people responded to our survey on ‘The lived experience of Black music creators and industry professionals in the UK music industry’. That is 2000 people hoping for genuine change. This is a first of its kind report which holds a mirror up to the UK music industry showing what it actually looks like. The disparities Black creators and industry professionals are faced with is rooted in traditionalism and systemic racism. The report highlights racist culture and behaviours in the workplace, financial barriers and lack of investment in Black music creators, and industry professionals unable to reach their career goals. The report also spotlights Black women being the most disadvantaged across all areas of the music industry and how all of these factors affect the mental health of Black creators and industry professionals. This is data, you cannot ignore it. The data clearly shows that change is needed across the entire music ecosystem from grass root education, all the way up to record labels. I hope industry leaders read this report and hear the voice of those who spoke out. I hope this report evokes change in the way we do our music business which has greatly profited from Black talent.

“We are looking forward to working with all music industry leaders to ensure that we can achieve change, together.” 

Key findings of this report include:

  •  86% of all Black music creators agree that there are barriers to progression. This number rises to 89% for Black women and 91% for Black creators who are disabled 
  • –  88% of all Black music professionals agree that there are barriers to progression 
  • –  Three in five (63%) Black music creators have experienced direct/indirect racism
    in the music industry, and more (71%) have experienced racial microaggressions 
  • –  35% of all Black music creators have felt the need to change their appearance
    because of their race/ethnicity, rising to 43% of Black women 
  • –  73% of Black music professionals have experienced direct/indirect racism in the
    music industry, and more (80%) have experienced racial microaggressions 
  • –  31% of all Black music creators believe their mental wellbeing has worsened since
    starting their music career, rising to 42% of Black women
  • –  36% of Black music professionals believe their mental wellbeing has declined,
    rising to 39% of Black women 
  •  38% of Black music professionals earn 100% of their income from music
    compared to 69% of white music professionals. 
  • –  57% of black music creators have seen white contemporaries promoted ahead of
    them despite being more qualified 

We at the MIA fully support all recommendations made in these reports and strongly urge our members and all Music Industry Professionals to read the report, share with their colleagues and use it going forward to create actionable change within the Music Industries.

These two reports are available to download and read here.